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Legal Research Skills Guide: History of an Act

History of an Act

When researching an issue, you identify a provision of an Act that is relevant, it is important to check to see if this provision has been changed and whether those changes apply to your situation. Over time, a section or provision of an Act can be 

  • amended - altered by another Act
  • inserted or added - a completely new section or provision
  • substituted - with a significant change of meaning
  • repealed - removed from the Act altogether.

Each Act will include a list of changes made to each section or provision, and indicate what happened and which Act made those changes. This information will be found in the Notes or Endnotes section at the back of the Act.

Tracking changes to an Act

To identify any changes made to a Commonwealth Act, check the Notes or EndNotes section of the relevant Act.

You'll find a Table of Amending Instruments and a Table of amendments.

In the Table of amendments, locate the section or provision you're interested in.

To identify any changes made to a New South Wales Act, use the Legislative history tab at the top of the Act.

Example - New South Wales

We're going to look at the changes made to Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012 (NSW) s 8. 

Navigate to the Act on the NSW Legislation website.

To identify changes made to s 8,

  • Select Legislative History at the top of the page,
  • Select History notes, this will display the sections of the Act and their corresponding changes
  • Locate s 8.

The changes that were made are listed as - Am 2013 No 31, Sch 1 [3]; 2015 No 29, Sch 2 [4].

We can read this as

  • Am 2013; 2015, 2 amendments were made, the first in 2013, the second in 2015

Let's focus on the amendments made by the 2013 Act.

  • No 31 means the 31st Act of 2013 amended s 8,
  • Sch 1 [3] means that sch 1[3] of the 31st Act made the amendments to s 8.

To identify the 31st Act of 2013,

  • select Amending Legislation at the top of the page
  • locate the Acts from 2013.

The 2013 list shows that Child Protection Legislation Amendment (Children's Guardian) Act 2013 (NSW) was the Act that made those amendments.

To find out the changes this Act made, navigate to the amending Act (the Act title is hyperlinked) and read sch 1[3].

The explanatory note to explain why the changes were made to Child Protection Legislation Amendment (Children's Guardian) Bill 2013 (NSW) is available by selecting Legislative History at the top of the page.

Activity #26 - Locating changes to an Act

 Locate the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012 (NSW) in the NSW legislation website.